A FOOTBALL referee is looking forward to the beginning of the new league season next month.

Ryan Lee, from Musselburgh, was made a Scottish Football Association category three official a year ago and spent his first season largely as an assistant in SPFL League One and Two.

The former Musselburgh Grammar School pupil said that experience had stood him in good stead for the season ahead.

He told Courier Sport: “I was able to listen and learn from the very experienced category one referees and the specialist assistant referees, which I feel has helped me with my own performances.

“Being able to see and hear how the guys at the top of the game operate, from their match preparation and to how they handle situations on the field of play, is invaluable experience for me.”

Lee was also selected as part of the Scottish Centre of Refereeing Excellence 17 programme (SCORE 17), which he said was a “massive personal achievement”.

The 20-year-old, who was selected following an interview process, added: “SCORE is an initiative which was set up by the SFA in 2015 looking to identify and develop talented referees with the potential to become elite match officials of the future.”

The course gets under way next month and Lee added: “I can’t wait to get started.”

While Lee only returned to action in pre-season recently, he told Courier Sport he had been busy training alongside other referees.

He said: “Keeping fit after the end of a season is really important for us as referees so we can be fully prepared for the start of a new season.

“I like to take a rest for a few weeks and totally relax, although it never really escapes your mind.

“I train myself at my gym, where I really focus on becoming stronger and getting rid of any niggles I may have had from the end of the season. There are pre-season guidelines for us as referees to follow, covering fitness and injury prevention work, which is really good to have but can be quite challenging to stick to at times.

“After that, I start to think about refereeing again and, when training starts back up, it’s good to get back training with the guys and prepare as a group for the new season.

“The Edinburgh referees train at Oriam [the national performance centre for sport] – we can chat about our games and it really helps with camaraderie as we all know how tough refereeing can be at times.”

While he has set his sights on continuing to learn this term, Lee also encouraged anyone interested in becoming a referee to give it a try.

He added: “I would encourage anybody out there who has a love for football and possibly thinking of becoming a referee to get along to a new entrants class and give it a go.

“You never know where it may take you and, personally, I’ve never looked back since passing the class in April 2013.”